Pedal Steel Guitar

9 Best Pedal Steel Guitars (That Sound AMAZING)

By taking a closer look at certain elements of a pedal steel, such as their design, tone, and features, you can really begin to understand what makes a pedal steel guitar play and sound the best. Let’s take a look at some of the best pedal steel guitars on the market. Read more…

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Pedal steel guitar is certainly a niche instrument, but there are still many great players and steel guitars in the world. The instrument is known for its distinct sound, and some of the best pedal steel guitars produce a tone that is remarkable.

Whether a pedal steel guitar is brand new or used, there are many great pedal steels in today’s market and choosing the best one can come down to taste and preference.

9 Best Pedal Steel Guitars (That Sound AMAZING)

By taking a closer look at certain elements of a pedal steel, such as their design, tone, and features, you can really begin to understand what makes a pedal steel guitar play and sound the best.

Let’s take a look at some of the best pedal steel guitars on the market…

The Emmons Push-Pull: A Sought After Tone

These classic pedal steels are renowned for their crystal-clear and present tone. Most were made between the 1960s and 1970s, and there are various types depending on when and how it was manufactured.

A large part of the tone is due to the changer, which is a push-pull system. Although these can be challenging to setup, maintain, and adjust, push-pulls have a genuine pedal steel sound that it is usually a worthwhile trade-off.

Another great thing about Emmons push-pulls is that many of them were made in an era where Buddy Emmons himself had more influence on the brand and design of Emmons pedal steel guitars.

Ask any pedal steel player that has a collection of valuable steel guitars what their favorite is, and there’s a good chance they’ll mention an Emmons push-pull.

Franklin Pedal Steels

These pedal steels not only sound great, they are also highly regarded for their functionality and mechanics. Even better, they are built and designed by famous pedal steel player Paul Franklin’s father.

Franklin pedal steels are often loaded with compensators, and they are also known for their ability to stay in tune accurately. Their mechanical precision and undercarriages help make them some of the best pedal steels ever made.

These pedal steels frequently have a high number of pedals and knee levers too, however there are certainly more standard setups that have been built.

Because of how rare they are in regards to the amount that have been made, as well as the brand’s reputation, these pedal steels are some of the most expensive on the market. Some used Franklins can sell for over $10,000 and their value only seems to go up over time.

Since Paul Franklin Sr. made these himself, there are a limited number of used ones available and many players simply hold onto them instead of selling them.

If you listen to some of Paul Franklin’s playing, or see him live at a performance, there’s a good chance he’s playing a Franklin.

The Mullen G2

This list certainly wouldn’t be complete if Mullen’s G2 pedal steel wasn’t mentioned. Mullen pedal steel guitars are some of the most popular pedal steels today, and there is often a 4 month long waiting period for buying one.

However, don’t let that deter you because they are well worth the wait. The G2 has a beautiful undercarriage design, and a top of the line changer.

These steel guitars are known for their preciseness and accuracy, along with their great tone.

The body and overall design look great, and Mullen makes it easy for players to customize their pedal steel when building a new one. These pedal steel guitars are certainly worth checking out, and some of the best pedal steel players are known to play these.

The Williams 700 Series

These pedal steel guitars are absolutely gorgeous and well designed. Recognizable players like Greg Leisz and BJ Cole often play Williams steel guitars, and they’re able to create some of the most cherished pedal steel sounds with them.

The sleek keyheads look great on the bodies of these guitars, and some of the bodies are made with beautiful exotic woods. Also, the 700 series shows that Williams has really mastered the art of using CNC machines for building pedal steels.

These guitars have a nice balance of warmth and clarity, while still staying true to the classic “bright” sound of pedal steels.

Emmons Lashley LeGrande II

The Emmons company has a long history and is certainly one of the most recognizable pedal steel brands ever. The Lashley LeGrande series is a terrific all-pull pedal steel from the more modern era of pedal steel building.

Many of the LeGrande II models were built in the 1990s, and they play and sound great. They are highly functional and customizable, and feature bell cranks with a lot of adjustment options.

Having the classic atomic particle fretboard symbols, these guitars are aesthetically pleasing as well. The LeGrande II pedal steels are considered to be some of the best pedal steels built since the 1980s, and they were built efficiently.

Jack Strayhorn (a pedal steel player, builder, and guru) had a hand in the production of many of these guitars. If you’re able to find a Lashley LeGrande II that Strayhorn helped build, then it is likely that you’ll be able to tell how much care he put into the manufacturing process.

Lashley LeGrande II steel guitars usually have all of the features and capabilities that modern pedal steels are known for, and they are relatively lightweight compared to older pedal steels.

Zum Steels

Becoming more and more valuable, Zum steels seem to have grown in reputation. They are beginning to rival Franklin pedal steels in how one-of-a-kind they are.

Originally built by Bruce Zumsteg, these pedal steels sell quickly on the pedal steel market. Zumsteg stopped building these full time around 2014, however Doug Earnest still builds a couple lower cost models that are licensed by ZumSteel.

If you’re able to get a hold of one that was originally built by Zumsteg himself, it will most likely sound, play, and look amazing. Many of the Zum Steels feature beautiful inlay work on the cabinet of the steel guitar as well.

These pedal steels look sharp and have a lot of character to their sound.

Marlen Pull-Release and All-Pull Pedal Steels

Marlen pedal steels are a hidden treasure, yet oddly enough they are relatively low in demand and cost significantly less than many other used pedal steels on the market.

Most Marlen owners have great things to say about how these steel guitars play and sound, and the care that was put into building them by Leonard Stadler is evident.

These guitars aren’t manufactured anymore, so the only ones on the market are used. However, if you can find one that is setup and working well, then it will likely have an impactful sound that rivals most other pedal steels.

The Marlen pull-release pedal steels are often compared to the Emmons push-pull guitars in terms of tone, which says a lot because of how valuable these Emmons pedal steels are to players.

Marlen all-pulls sound terrific as well, and many of these play as good as all-pull pedal steels being manufactured nowadays.

Excel Pedal Steels

Made in Japan, these pedal steels have a characteristic design and sound that make them truly unique. Often called the Fuzzy Steel Guitar Company, these steel guitars display a precision of craftsmanship that is truly inspiring.

Excel pedal steels are known to be very accurate in their tuning capabilities, and are lightweight compared to many other pedal steels being made nowadays.

Their keyless tuners are eye catching, yet natural looking for such a unique style of guitar. Be sure to check out their console and lap steel guitars as well.

The MSA Legend XL

Perhaps one of the most beautiful all-around pedal steels on the market, MSA’s Legend XL is a keeper. It has a modern look that stays true to the brand’s classic appeal, with many customizable options for players.

These pedal steel guitars also come with an option for a lighting system: both for underneath the guitar and its fretboard. Many of these come with gorgeous inlay designs, and their wooden necks add a slight warmth to their transparent tone.

MSA is one of the few pedal steel manufacturers that has managed to grow and evolve over the years, without straying too far from its roots. Maurice Anderson helped build the MSA brand, and his iconic approach to the pedal steel is inherent in each of their instruments.

How To Find The Best Pedal Steel Guitar In Today’s Market

Ultimately, finding the best pedal steel guitar comes down to a player’s budget, tonal preference, and copedant. Even more important is the availability of some of these steel guitars, and whether or not they are for sale.

If you’re looking to buy a brand new Mullen G2, you’ll likely have to wait at least four months for the company to build it. Also, some of the older and more rare guitars, such as Franklins and Zum Steels, are sold a lot less frequently.

When they do become available, they are likely to be expensive. You’ll also have to hope that the pedal steel has the look and setup that you prefer.

9 Best Pedal Steel Guitars

Sometimes finding the best pedal steel comes down to chance. Occasionally, a great pedal steel will become available through an online listing, where a family member or player is looking to sell it cheap.

If you see any of these pedal steels available for sale, and they are used, try to determine if the price and value is worth it. Also, consider how well it functions and if it stays in tune properly. If it doesn’t, then it may need to have work done on it to get it setup.

But most importantly, always listen for the sound of the pedal steel guitar. The ear is a good gauge for determining the best pedal steel because, after all, it is the sound of a steel guitar that listeners (and players) are drawn to. Everything else comes down to details and preferences.

Thanks for checking out this page, hope it is helpful and makes playing more enjoyable! If you’re interested in diving deeper into playing chords and scales on E9 pedal steel, check out these guides…

The Chord Guide for E9 Pedal Steel (E-Book, Digital Download)

Pedal Steel Guitar Instruction Book

Learn the chords on the E9 neck in a way that makes playing simple and enjoyable…

  • Almost Every Chord You’ll Ever Need for E9
  • Intuitive and Easy to Use
  • Make Use of Pedal and Lever Combinations
  • Example Tabs of Chord Movements
  • Easily Utilize the Nashville Number System
  • Great For Any Key and Style of Music

Includes a bonus section of over a hundred pages of extra chord charts, key references, and more!

More Digital Downloads for Pedal Steel…

The Elixir of E9 Pedal Steel: Harmonized 6ths

Check out the page below for more info on pedal steel guitars…

Pedal Steel Buyer’s Guide: Cost and Features